Snooze-Button Dreams BY JEMMA PAYNE You’ve told me you have something to tell me. I’m swaddled in robes but your feet are bare and you’re crunching the hem of your t-shirt in your left hand. The symmetrical crinkles tell me you’ve been swapping hands for a while. I’m trying to make out if the horizons in this place are water or fog. Or dust. (A few weeks ago, an article you’d read, most people don’t know deserts can be very cold as well as very hot. The only criteria is that it doesn’t rain.) Something steam-powered is bearing down upon us. You’re still not talking, so I tell you about my new coffee machine, how I’ve got it on a timer to welcome me into the day. “I’m always scared it’ll catch on fire if I don’t get up,” I say, “so I always do.” “Is it good enough?” you ask. “How many stars?” The sky crowds with chubby stars. Some alight and the rest, outlines. I can’t count. There’s so many stars, in the desert. “Do you like it?” The stars make your face darker and the horizons, shadows. “Are you satisfied?” Music at my left, tinny. Like someone’s calling me. (Why didn’t I see it before?) A steam-driven merry-go-round, a big painted mushroom. Studded with carnival light bulbs, its spores wooden animals. (No, I knew it was there all along.) A zebra pumps toward us. Already I’m rising and falling with it. LET IT GO ONE MORE ROUND, it says on your t-shirt. I glance again at the zebra and when I look at you the writing has changed to Russian. The lights blink over everything but your face. I go toward the lights until the colours are on my arms and I do look back, I do, but you’re walking away slowly crying. “I value your feedback!” you say. I step onto the merry-go-round’s deck and climb into the saddle carved out of the zebra’s back. Its slow vertical dance is like breathing. I hold its chipped wooden mane. The steam and the music alarming now. I can’t see anything outside the lights.